The City of Lights

Image

They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris.

-Oscar Wilde

It’s true; the sparkling city lights help Paris come alive at night. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had a fascination about visiting Paris. With Paris being the home to my favorite movie, Moulin Rouge, and musical, Phantom of the Opera, it only made sense. Carrie’s obsession with Paris on Sex and the City¬†even helped fuel my desire to visit the famous city. This is why I knew Paris was a must stop on my last and final trip around Europe with my favorites in Albecpeta.

Image

As we landed into Paris Thursday night, we could see the Eiffel tower gleaming in the distance. It’s easy to say this was definitely a great start to the trip. We were a little nervous about running into some stereotypical snobby people while in Paris, but everyone was beautifully friendly. During our long trek of dragging our luggage to our hostel from the train station, we ran into many friendly faces helping us while “lost in Paris”. We finally met one older gentleman who pointed us into the right direction. He had lived in the area all his life, and explained to us some history about Paris. Boulevards always have trees, and since Paris wasn’t bombed during WWII, he feels like living in Paris is like living in a beautiful antique museum. With a friend from Alabama, he appreciated and poked fun at my southern roots. He also shared his excitement about Obama winning the election, which was a common theme when running into locals around the city. Maybe that’s why everyone was so nice to us Americans?

Image

Our new friend suggested a great restaurant recommendation called the Chartier, which is located in a beautiful historic building. He had been eating there for 20 years and promised it would be a great reasonable French meal. He was right! We dined on wine, steak, and cheese for around ten Euros a person during our last night in Paris. Luckily we missed the line wrapping around the outside of the restaurant waiting to be sat.

With our hostel being a five minute walk from the Moulin Rouge, I knew I was in the right place. The four of us in Albecpeta celebrated our first night with an adorable picnic consisting of wine, cheese, and grapes on our hostel floor.

Image

Image

Our days were filled with visiting the Latin Quarter, Notre Dam, famous book stores, the opera house, strolling along the Sine river, exploring Montmartre, and other must do touristy things. My favorite moments were really embracing the Parisian atmosphere and relaxing at outside cafes with coffee and creeps. Nothing like some Albecpeta bonding while cafe hopping (and eating) in Paris! Thanks to Alana’s French speaking techniques traveling throughout the city was like a breeze.

Image

One of my favorite moments of the trip was Alana and Pete’s adorable attempt to plan a “surprise date” for Pete and I. Aren’t I so lucky to have such great friends? Though pretty obvious the whole time (Hey Pete, your on Facebook right? cue winky face), the thought was pretty spectacular. I guess it’s just something you have to do in the most romantic city in the world, right? Once we parted ways, Pete took me to this delicious hidden restaurant by the Royal Gardens. We shared wine that was agreed upon by both of us to be some of the best wine we’ve ever had…. Chevalier de Malle Graves Bordeaux 2008 if you need any wine suggestions. At the end of the night Pete decided to surprise Alana with flowers for helping him out with all of the planning. Major brownie points.

Image

Image

We ended off the romantic night with the rest of Albecpeta by visiting the Eiffel tower. I always thought it would be cool, but I had no idea how breathtaking it would actually be. First off, it’s HUGE. Secondly, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad we got to see it at night, and every hour it even sparkles. Alana and I screamed like little girls the first time we saw it. All of us ventured to the very top to see the city from high above. I even got to fit in with Alana’s flowers with a few last minute roses from Pete at the tower. Some might say it’s because I’m a jealous brat, I just call myself lucky ūüôā

Image

Another amazing thing I did in Paris was visiting the apartment my Dad’s grandmother lived in during her travel from Russia to Baltimore. My Aunt Becky also lived there, which was the person I was named after. It was really touching to be able to see that part of my family’s history. I really wish my parents were there to share it with me!

Image

Image

Although Paris was just the beginning to an amazing week of adventures, we made some great memories that I’ll never forget. My time in Paris exceeded all of my expectations!

Advertisements

Becca takes Bornholm

My friends at home would laugh if they heard me say I biked 70 kilometers (around 44 miles) this weekend. Well believe it because it totally happened…and to everyone’s amazement I’m still alive.

It all started off with wanting to sign up for a nice weekend biking trip to beautiful Bornholm, the supposed “flat” island off the coast of Sweden. Bornholm has been known to be Denmark’s most prized possessions, featuring sea cliffs, adorable towns, castles, famous glass handcrafts, and beaches with some of the finest sand in the world (used for hourglasses)…which are all available for enjoyment on just the seat of your bicycle. These bike paths have been praised as Northern Europe’s best and most beautiful.

Albecpeta (refer to last post) was in for a big surprise. First problem: Bornholm is not flat. My idea of effortlessly pedaling around a beautiful European island with an ice cream in one hand and taking pictures in the other was quickly forgotten.

Second problem: Although very beautiful, the weather did not always cooperate. A few rainstorms got in the way of our biking adventure. Not to mention wind, which of course blew against us. With the help of Albecpeta’s positive attitude, and my handy-dandy clunky helmet, we didn’t let the random rainstorms get in the way.

On Saturday, after doing a little shopping at Baltic Sea Glass, we headed north to explore the island. Our first trip was to Helligdomsklipperne,¬†“The Sacred Cliffs”. Beautiful scenery, and the perfect place for we lazy Americans to rest on the rocks from an already tiring bike ride.

Afterwards, since Albecpeta is always hungry, we decided to venture further north to a popular town for some lunch. Some of us wanted to try ‘finger eating’ a warm smoked herring, one of Bornholm’s delicacies. After the long trek (mostly uphill), we figured out Bornholm was very similar to a place like Cape Cod. Beautiful all year round, but dead during off-season. We finally found the only restaurant in town that was open. To our luck it was the perfect hyggely (cozy) environment for exhausted bikers wet from the rain. We shared hot chocolate in cute little teacups and had one of the most delicious warm meals I’ve had so far out in Denmark (big servings too for a change!).

To be honest, by this time Albecpeta was pretty fed up with biking. We even considered changing the trip from “biking in Bornholm” to “busing in Bornholm”. In the end we sucked it up and biked all the way back to our hostel. Never thought I would get to the point where I considered a downhill before an uphill as rewarding as something equivalent to winning a $100 gift certificate to J-Crew.

Once we arrived my body was in shock…and pretty confused from the athletic stunt I had pulled. Did Albecpeta join the rest of the group at bars around Bornholm? No…we actually feel asleep at 8:30. Crazy night right?

Lets just say I woke up in the morning with not so friendly feelings towards my bicycle. Once Albecpeta discovered the southern town Svaneke was known for it’s microbreweries and homemade ice cream…we just knew it was the right place for us to be. So…we headed south.¬†After the biking trek there we figured we deserved a “beer brunch”, sampling all of the different flavors the brewery had to offer. Definitely a treat from the cheap beer we’ve grown accustomed to back at home. Homemade ice cream afterwards played the perfect role for some emotional eating after an exhausting weekend that wasn’t over quite yet.

After our trip to the city, I decided to depart from my Albecpeta comrades and go solo on a bike path along the coast for my way home. Before this trip, I would have never wanted to take a long bike ride in a foreign country (or anywhere for that matter) by myself. I can tell how independent I’ve already become from just one month of studying abroad. My hour and a half ride back to the hostel was the most enjoyable time I had on my bike during the weekend. I was able to take my time and stop to explore the coastline and take pictures (including many great solo shots of me, myself, and I). It was also nice not to have to compare myself to the more athletic members in Albecpeta….aka everyone but myself.

I encountered some major “shuffle shame” while listening to my iPod, and was revisited by some old friends including, but not limited to, the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Shaggy….the list goes on. Definitely played “Space Cowboy” about four times on repeat, and found it to be a real source of biking inspiration.

The countryside and coastline of Bornholm is absolutely beautiful, and my time biking alone was a great time for some self and life reflections. It turned out to be the perfect end to a weekend with a major case of ups and downs. And luckily, my bike and I ended the weekend with a respectful friendship.

Ya’ll, I think my un-athletic self deserves a round of applause.

K√łbenhavn…the big city

Today was my first day actually going into Copenhagen! (The Danish way to say it is “K√łbenhavn”.) Although figuring out transportation with all my new¬†Folkeh√łjskole friends was pretty hilarious…the morning didn’t start off too great. With a mix of being jet lagged and having a cold I was already feeling not too great. Feeling sick when your trying to explore somewhere new and foreign is probably one of the most stressful things ever. I randomly got sick in a Danish bakery bathroom. This would be my luck. (Leaving my mark in Denmark already..?) Kind of sucked but at the same time I felt so much better afterwards, which was in perfect timing for the beginning of our city traveling. I was really proud of myself for powering through, and all my friends in my travel group were perfect for the extra comfort!

DIS sent us in groups on an “amazing race” around Copenhagen. Our group definitely added our own spin with some extra leisure time and ADD adventures, but it was a really great way to see a glimpse of the city. I hope I can fit everything in before I leave! It’s also so hot here; yesterday broke a record for the hottest day in Denmark. It was a whopping 80 degrees, a little different from the south, eh?

We’ve been taking advantage of the unusual warm weather with canal tours, picnics, and we have plans to swim in the canal and kayak sometime this week. The heat almost got too much…we had to cool off in every fountain we passed during our long walks today. It took a lot not to jump in.

Denmark is the perfect place to continuously feed my castle obsession. It’s the oldest monarch ever, and has the most castles in Europe. We saw where the current Danish Royal Family lives today. So breathtaking. Denmark is known for their architecture. The city is mixed with buildings dating back to the 1600s built by King Christian the IV and then modern buildings known for their environmental sustainability. Since it’s my first time in Europe, I’ve never been around such history that dates back that far. I absolutely love it.

The more I learn about Denmark, the more interesting the country becomes to me. They are extremely liberal…just found out today that they were the first place to legalize pornography and same-sex marriage. Also crossing the street is extremely dangerous…they don’t warn you by a “count down” that we find in America before the sign says don’t walk. Hopefully I can get the hang of that? Don’t step in the bike lane or you will LITERALLY get run over. And I was kind of surprised but there is hardly any English, if any, on signs or menus. Ordering food is definitely interesting.

After a long day defeating my sickness and exploring Copenhagen, some of us decided to continue to enjoy the nice weather in the city by ordering some drinks and appetizers at a cute outside cafe.

It’s a little quiet back at the¬†Folkeh√łjskole since the Danes haven’t moved in yet, but we have been having so much fun getting to know our small group of Americans better! I still have no voice from my cold…so my roommate Aleah has been calling me “Vivian” until my “sexy” raspy voice disappears.

Study Abroad Inspiring Quote

Found a really great quote while reading “The Happiness Project” the other day. It really connected and eased a lot of my anxiousness towards spending a whole semester on the other side of the world. And hey, what better way to start off a travel blog than with some inspiration?

“We seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and unexpected are important sources of happiness.” ¬†

Can’t wait to discover what unexpected adventurous Denmark has in store for me in exactly three weeks. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. But I bought some snow boots today…so this southern girl is getting prepared!